Home Foot Disorders What is a Bunion? A Complete Guide

What is a Bunion? A Complete Guide

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What is a Bunion Small IntroBunions are small, bony bumps that can form on the joints of your toes.

Bunions are usually not something to be extremely worried about, but they can become painful if you don’t take the proper precautions.

In order to help people with bunions better understand their condition, we have created this complete guide.

In this guide, you will learn about what a bunion is, what causes bunions, and what you can do to treat them.

Let’s get started.

What is a Bunion?

What is a Bunion - Hallux Valgus
Bunions typically form on the joint of the big toe. | What is a Bunion?

A bunion, also referred to as hallux valgus, is a small bump made of bone which forms on the joint of your toes. Bunions typically form on the joint of the big toe, but in some cases, they can form on the joints of other toes. Because of the bunion, the toe will not straighten out. Instead, it will start to curve towards the other toes. Bunions do not form overnight, they take years to properly form. It can end up being years before a person actually experiences symptoms.

What Causes Bunions?

The actual causes of bunions are poorly understood. However, there are certain factors that have been linked to the development of bunions:

  • Overpronation. Some people roll their feet inward too much when they walk and the shock of each step is not properly absorbed by the foot.
  • Genetics. If members of your family had bunions, it’s more likely that you’ll develop bunions. Also, certain genetic conditions (like having one leg longer than the other) can lead to bunions due to more stress being put on one foot.
  • Conditions that weaken the joints and the ligaments in the toe. Examples of this include gout (uric crystals form on the joint and can damage it) and arthritis (the joints get weaker and are thus more susceptible to developing bunions).
  • Tight fitting shoes or shoes that do not fit properly are probably not enough to cause bunions on their own, but when combined with other factors they can make the development of bunions more likely. Because women tend to wear tight fitting shoes more often than men, women are more likely to develop bunions.

What do Bunions do?

Some bunions are benign, and while they may deform the foot, they do not actually cause any pain. Other bunions can cause massive amounts of pain. The area around the bunion may become red and inflamed. People with bunions will have issues wearing normal shoes because the shoe will put pressure on the bunion, which in turn causes pain. Also, because the bunions are constantly rubbing up against shoes, calluses tend to form on the bunion.

What is a Bunion - Inflamed Bunion
Here is an inflamed bunion that will likely lead to a callus if it continues rubbing against a shoe. | What is a Bunion?

One of the main dangers of bunions is that they can lead to other conditions. One such example is hammertoe, which is where the toe steadily becomes deformed until it vaguely resembles a hammer. Another issue is bursitis. Bursitis is a condition where the bursa, which is a fluid filled sac meant to decrease friction at the joints, becomes swollen. Bursitis can cause extreme pain. So, in addition to dealing with the pain caused by the bunion, a person may also have to deal with the pain caused by bursitis.

Treatment and Prevention

What is a Bunion - Bunion Treatment
For those who either can’t afford it or do not want to have surgery, there are plenty of other ways to deal with the pain caused by bunions. | What is a Bunion?

The only way to get rid of bunions completely is through relatively simple surgery. However, for those who either can’t afford it or do not want to have surgery, there are plenty of other ways to deal with the pain caused by bunions.

Drugs

  • Because one of the main symptoms of bunions is inflammation, over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs can be helpful in keeping swelling down. Drugs like Advil and aspirin can both fight inflammation and the pain caused by bunions.
  • If the inflammation gets really bad, typical methods of reducing inflammation can be used to combat the inflammation. For example, a local injection of cortisone.

Lifestyle Changes

  • People who are overweight will need to start really losing weight, and losing it quickly. The reason being that people who are overweight put more stress on their feet and their joints when they walk. So, as more stress is put on the joints, the bunion will start to hurt more.

Footwear & Inserts

  • You can get special gel pads to help protect the bunion when using shoes. As stated above, bunions rub against the inside of shoes when people walk, which causes pain, inflammation, and calluses.
  • You can also use orthopedic inserts to help keep your foot properly positioned. Keeping your foot properly positioned while walking helps reduce the stress on the joints, which in turn helps prevent the area around the bunions from becoming inflamed and causing pain. You can either use over the counter orthopedic inserts, or get your doctor to give you prescription inserts.

Daily Treatments

What is a Bunion - Bunion Corrector & Protector Sleeves
Bunion Corrector & Protector Sleeves sold by Amazon (image courtesy of Amazon)

Surgery

  • As stated above, surgery is the only way to permanently get rid of a bunion.
  • As far as surgeries go, it is a relatively simple procedure to get rid of a bunion. The surgery is done using a local anesthetic, and the person will not need to be kept overnight.
  • There are several different surgeries that can be used to get rid of the bunion. The most common method, known as a bunionectomy, involves the removal of the bunion itself.
  • Other methods may involve the reshaping of the joint, or the removal of large sections of the joint.
  • Although the surgery is relatively minor, a patient will still have to wear a special cast for a few weeks and will have to avoid putting pressure on the foot for at least a few weeks.

Conclusion

We hope that this guide has proved useful to those who are either suffering from bunions, know someone who is, or were just wondering what is a bunion. Bunions aren’t something you should ignore, they aren’t fatal, but if they aren’t managed properly, they can cause unbearable pain. So, make sure that you, or anyone you know with bunions, is taking steps to manage them.

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